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David Sicher, 19, will enter the U.S. Naval Academy as a cadet on June 27.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
David Sicher, 19, graduates from Franklin County High School today. He is heading to the Annapolis.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
David Sicher said he wants to “serve the greater good” as a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He said he hopes to focus on engineering. His grandmother, Penny Vahsen, said, “He’s been thinking about the Naval Academy since he was 4 years old.”
Saturday, June 15, 2013
David Sicher had no intention of going to college anywhere else.
The Navy way of life just always made sense to him. He wanted structure. He wanted leadership. He wanted camaraderie. Come June 27 he will start a journey he hopes will include all of those things.
A little less than two weeks after graduating today from Franklin County High School, Sicher, 19, will head to Annapolis, Md., for induction day at the U.S. Naval Academy, his first step to becoming a part of the incoming freshman class. While many of his friends and fellow graduates will spend their summers preparing for a freshman year in college and saying goodbye to friends, Sicher will have already begun his collegiate career.
“It’s just in general the kind of environment I would want to find myself in,” he said.
During his time in Rocky Mount, Sicher excelled. He scored game-winning goals in varsity soccer games, was regularly named to the honor roll for having a 4.0 grade point average, attended the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology and was named most likely to succeed by his Franklin County peers. After Sicher graduates as one of the 479 members of the class of 2013, he’ll face an entirely new challenge.
Sicher is the third Franklin County High graduate in six years to have received an appointment to the Naval Academy.
Thinking back on his friends’ reactions when they found out where he was going to school, he laughed.
“All my friends were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s totally a good place for you,’ ” Sicher recalled.
One of those graduates, Brent Aldridge, is now in his third year at the academy. Aldridge has known Sicher for 10 years, since the two first played soccer together in elementary school. Now, as Sicher prepares to join his former teammate in Annapolis, Aldridge said he was thrilled to welcome his friend to the academy.
“I was completely expecting him to get in,” Aldridge said. “I know the kind of guy he is and if he didn’t get in, I’d be upset with the people here. There’s no way he shouldn’t have been able to get in.”
During his first year at the academy, Aldridge received support from a local woman who sponsored midshipmen attending the school. She would cook for the cadets and comfort them, providing a sense of home even when the young men were miles away from their families. That woman was Sicher’s grandmother, Penny Vahsen, who Aldridge said is famous at the academy for sponsoring midshipmen.
Sicher will be Vahsen’s third grandchild to attend the Naval Academy, and she plans to sponsor him during his time in Annapolis. When she found out Sicher was going to attend the Naval Academy she was ecstatic, Vahsen said.
She remembered how, when Sicher was very young, she would find him waking up early to create Navy-related games with poker chips.
“He’s been thinking about the Naval Academy since he was 4 years old,” Vahsen said.
Sicher said he was exposed while growing up to the Navy way of life through his grandmother and other family members. His father and uncle had both served, while his mother grew up in a Navy household. Looking back on why he first became interested in the academy, Sicher said it was his grandmother’s kindness toward the midshipmen that left an impression on him.
“As I grew up I was always in touch with it just because of my grandma and that whole side of the family,” he said. “I kind of got to know a lot of different midshipmen through that whole process and just be around the Naval Academy and the whole experience.”
Once he starts classes, Sicher plans on studying engineering as well as taking courses within the social sciences.
After graduation he’ll have to spend at least five years on active duty, but he said there’s nothing that will dissuade him from spending a longer amount of time in the military.
“I’d probably stay in for a while,” Sicher said. “But it’s hard to kind of say at this point.”
Before Sicher leaves for the Naval Academy, he said, his family plans to visit Italy and Greece. In the week before his graduation, Sicher talked about the people he’d miss from high school, his friends, his teammates and his church community.
“I guess like most people, it’s bittersweet,” Sicher said. “You mix the excitement of what you’re going to do with the sadness of what you’re leaving.”
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